Five Years

Five Years

Today, as I do several times a year, I mourn the loss of my mother. Today is her birthday, a birthday she should have lived to see. This is always a really difficult time of year for me, but so is the date of her death, so is Mother’s Day, so is my birthday, and pretty much every holiday where her presence is missed. Don’t get me wrong, she is missed on a daily basis, but there are certain times when the loss is far more painful than others.

This past week was bad for me. Emotionally, physically, and mentally burned out are words I’d use to describe how I feel. Despondent is another, and mid-week I SNAPPED. I didn’t have some random, out-of-the-blue flip out, I didn’t have some public meltdown, I simply had something happen in my house that caused a few hours of clean-up, and about five minutes into the clean-up, I flipped the hell out. Words I would normally keep to myself, discuss in a better place, in a private manner, came tumbling out of my mouth faster than I could pull them back. Eventually I did just shut up and stop, but I also had to walk away from the mess and take a break. I had to turn to medication in my effort to “calm the !@#$ down”. I did apologize to the person who was on the receiving end of my vitriol, because I am a firm believer that when I’m wrong I should admit to that wrong-doing, but I’m also a firm believer in not apologizing to anyone unless I am wrong. I was wrong, so I did apologize because it’s the right thing to do.

The combination of a bad day, a bad week, a lousy few months, and all the other crap piling up in my life became clearer as I realized my Mom’s birthday was approaching and that instead of being excited beyond words over the perfect gift I had found, the person who received the gift each year was no longer here.

When I say that my Mom & I were close, that’s actually me being subtle in terms of expression. We were best friends first, mother & daughter somewhere underneath it all. My Mom had been raised a certain way, she had been raised in a way of that which is proper and improper, for lack of a better expression. She was determined to raise her own children quite differently, and as soon as she sensed she was having a girl, she started to talk to me throughout her pregnancy. When she was handed her due date she researched the two potential astrological signs and then she went into prayer mode.

My Mom understood that I’d be born into a “man’s world” (Not so much any more ladies, is it?), but that I didn’t have to allow that to rule me if I was a girl, which she believed I was to her very core. She silently prayed “If it’s a boy, he can be a Libra or a Scorpio, it won’t matter, but if it’s a girl she MUST be a Scorpio or she will not survive in this world. God, please let her be a Scorpio. Give her every possible advantage of strength to survive and succeed.” This was her mantra. “Please let her be a Scorpio.”

My Mom’s due date passes and the astrological signs shift from Libra to Scorpio, which is when my Mom announced that I was “allowed to come out now”. LOL. She’d been in labor for over a week, probably Braxton-Hicks contractions, but to no avail, I refused to come out. I still don’t do what I’m told to do 95% of the time. Her doctor told her I would arrive when I was ready to do so.

When my Mom’s water broke several days before I was born, her doctor said “You’re fine. That happens sometimes ahead of schedule, but there are no other signs that the baby is coming, it’s just your body’s way of letting you know that the baby will be here soon. Wait to see me at your appointment.” The night of the appointment my Mom went into official labor in the doctor’s office. The doctor covering for her doctor told her “Your child will be here around midnight.” Believe it or not, he was off by only a few minutes.

Less than a year after my Mom passed away suddenly, I found a note from her to me. She’d written it before I was born and while I eliminated some of the more private parts, I share this with you just as I shared it at my parents’ unveiling.

A message to my daughter: ” Be your own person, always be truthful. Be kind, generous, loving, compassionate, and understanding. Be a friend, be thoughtful. Some day you may want these qualities of others. Teach them to your children. Be honest, you’ll always be able to look at yourself with pride. Don’t expect a lot from other people, and you’ll never be disappointed. Enjoy your life, but don’t do anything you’re not going to be able to live with, or are not be prepared to accept as a responsibility. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, hate is a wasted emotion. It’s not necessary to get even. Appreciate what you have, and achieve to the best of your ability. Listen, sometimes all a person needs is your shoulder. Be gracious, don’t let life drain and break you until you feel empty. Sometimes you have to be selfish. Make your own space, don’t be swallowed by loved ones. Don’t be afraid to admit you’ve made a mistake, we all do. Always know I love you and that you can come to me with anything. Let me be your friend…” Every time I read it, it makes me cry. My Mom had a lot of foresight into what my life would be like.

She was a talented artist, writer, & musician, an amazingly devoted mother, an even better friend, and without a doubt one of my very BEST friends in the entire world. Essentially, she was my first friend, we were so much more than mere mother and daughter, and people definitely took notice of this wherever we went. We shared books, often fighting over who got to read the newest author’s books we followed first. I was quicker, would plow through it in hours, and then watch her pour over it for days waiting for her reactions to the storyline. We shared movies, both new and old, poetry, music, side-splitting jokes & laughter, a genuine love of art and various cultures, a love of nature, a divine sense of beauty in things so many people don’t understand, and a great many other things that seem small in comparison to the large, but are equally as important to me. We had the most telepathic relationship in the world. I know no other parent half as connected as my mother and I remain. She was my voice of reason. I know her recipes by heart because I grew up watching her cook and she let me start cooking probably a year or so before she explained the fundamentals of writing to me.

My Mom was not afraid to show my brother and I the world, to take us places both new and old, teach us things, explain and discuss difficult subjects, open us up to a wide variety of experiences, and answer our questions. She was always extremely honest with us, she didn’t sugar-coat anything or play games. She raised us not to accept the easy, to fight for what we believed in and truly wanted. Of the two of us, I’m the one most outside the box. She taught me especially to dream big, for the dream precedes the goal. In turn, I accomplished more by the time I turned 21 than most people do in a lifetime, and yet there’s this wiser part of me that knows it’s not nearly enough, for we’re all here on borrowed time and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I’m not afraid to live beyond the word “potential”, and I’m not afraid of other people’s opinions because everyone is entitled to have one, it doesn’t mean their opinion is the correct one.

Before my Grandmother passed away, she asked me to take care of my Mom. She made me promise, and I took that promise very seriously. A lot of people felt that was too big a thing for her to ask of me, that I should have been off living my life the way my peers were, but the difference between me and them is, I can live with myself every single day knowing that I was there for her, that I wasn’t self-centered or self-absorbed, that I knew what and where my priorities were. And thankfully, I WAS there. Not just as her daughter, but as her friend. I was there through both the good and the bad, the light and the dark, I never wavered because I was never afraid to be the strong one. That kind of loyalty cannot be bought.

Death and grief changes you. Do you know what it’s like wondering if each breath a loved one takes will be their last? I watched over my Mom like that when she returned home after suffering from several heart attacks and strokes because her doctor was convinced she would not live another week. I immediately went into nurse/doctor mode, I went without sleep for days on end. Whenever she slept,  I watched over her. I have been accused of being a walking Physician’s Desk Reference, but it’s SO true of me.

I tried never to go without telling my parents ‘I love you.’ I didn’t want either of them to die without knowing. I especially wanted my Mom to understand how very important she was to me and how lucky I felt that she was gifted to me as my mother. Your mind is constantly going over every stupid thing you’ve ever said to them, every ‘I hate you,’ and ‘You don’t understand’, every door slammed, every ridiculous, petty argument, or phone call ended in the heat of the moment, and you hate yourself at times for letting the little things steal your time. You don’t get how precious and fragile life is until you’re surrounded by death, and the regret is staggering when you realize that you can’t get back all the wasted opportunities, that there are things you will never get to do with them or say. It’s impossible to grasp the full impact someone has on your life until you fully realize that the person isn’t going to be there any longer. You don’t realize all of the dreams you wished that included that person. Life flashes before you, filled with the holes created by their absence. You know that once they are gone, nothing is ever going to be the same again. There’s never any peace. You can’t hold on to anything. You lose your hope, and your dreams, and parts of your future, and there isn’t a thing you can do to stop it. It’s totally out of your hands.

My Mom’s passing was completely unexpected and an immense shock to my system. Yes, she was battling health problems, but I still fully believed she would prove many doctors wrong with her desire to live, to see her Grandchildren, etc.

My Mom was one of the most laid-back people in the world. I often said she was too good and too passive, and definitely way too good to the people who least deserved it. A great deal of the passion and fire she did have, she completely invested in and passed on to her children. There is no fight my brother & I won’t start and finish. My Mom chose her battles carefully, was not afraid to walk away if something wasn’t worth the battle, an attitude I have adopted as well, and it took a lot to push her buttons. She & I were as alike as we were different. When we fought, we really went for the jugular with each other, but in the end we would apologize for whatever we said in the heat of the moment, apologizing was very important to us, and our relationship would go back to normal once we each said our peace to one another.

At the end of each day, I still thank God for my Mom. I didn’t get a real goodbye with her and it’s not something I’ve ever “gotten over” because I feel things quite intensely. Her loss is felt so deeply within me every single day. In the past few years she has sent me so many things to help me heal. I can’t explain what it’s like to fully sense the physical presence of a person, be the presence solid or spiritual ether. Explaining clair-sentience to people is a lot like trying to explain air.

People tell me that despite what I am going through, and that which I’ve already endured, I walk in a room and have a glow about me they can’t quite put their finger on. I attribute that to being happy with the person I am inside, despite all of the pain and sadness. To being proud of who I am, for knowing who I am, and being confident in my skin. My Mom helped foster those initial feelings in me, so I am fearless, supremely confident, and despite all of the pain I have endured, I always rise up out of the ashes better than I was before the pyre. I am the astrological sign of transformation and rebirth, and the older I get, the greater respect I have for those moments in my life that help make me better.

I was blessed with an amazing mother. I know not everyone gets to have that kind of relationship with a parent, but I am also a firm believer that everything we experience in life helps prepare us for the moments when we really have to step up. My Mom often said “I never have to worry about you. You will always find your way, you will never lose focus.” I have a lot of bad days, but she’s right, she doesn’t have to worry about me because she instilled so much in me that I know my strengths. Occasionally I have to remind myself what they are, but I don’t ever truly lose focus.

So on this day Mom, I want you to know that I know you’re always close by. I know you have probably saved my life more times than I care to count. I know you see that life is shit’s creek a lot of the time. But I also firmly believe that because you know me so well, you’ll always make sure a life raft gets sent my way.

Thank you for being my mother, but I thank you more for being the reason I am exactly who I’m supposed to me.

“We thought of you today, but that’s nothing new. We thought about you yesterday, and days before that too.

We think of you in silence. We often speak your name. Now all we have are memories, and your picture in a frame.

Your memory is our keepsake with which we’ll never part. God has you in his keeping, we have you in our hearts.” -Unknown

Excerpts of this are copyright © 2009 by Lisa Marino. Everything else, unless otherwise indicated, is copyright © 2013 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity. No portion of this may be reproduced without written consent under the U.S. Copyright Act.

Happy Birthday Marion!

The Friendships In Life That Really, Truly Count

I write this in honor of my best friend Marion’s birthday. Marion is in Germany and she doesn’t know I am writing this or that I’ve been planning on writing it for a while (I’m sneaky like that! LOL.), but she deserves to know just how special she is, and why. She deserves more than I could ever possibly give her, but I can still honor her in a unique way because that’s one gift I can give immediately.

As with everything in life, there is a journey from point A to Marion, in which I will take you on as briefly, and as honestly, as possible.

Like most people, I have had more than one best friend in my life. There was my childhood best friend, who had been like a sister to me since I was 4. I won’t name names because to do so would be to give someone completely undeserving credence, but suffice it to say, she betrayed me with her disloyalty when we were in our late teens. One day we were best friends, our families as close as super glue, the next day I was persona non grata. She never had the guts to say a word to my face or explain herself. In fact, the last time she saw me she behaved as though I might harm her in some way. She was terrified, and that only managed to amuse me. Show me you fear me and it will only make me laugh.

I had other best friends in junior high and high school. You love them individually in the moment, but they can start to blend together as the years come and go. It doesn’t mean that I loved any of them any less, it just means we got older, we grew apart, and there were no hard feelings, at least not on my end of things,

As we all get older and our lives change, I only remained friends with one person from those days until he decided to stop returning my calls one day. The dodging and ditching of me went on for MONTHS. We never spoke again. It was a sad time for me then losing that friendship because we were as thick as thieves, we spoke every single day, we did so much together, things I will never be able to share with another person. Those were our adventures & memories, so many of them priceless. He was the first person to really see me, and he was the first guy in my life to give me diamond earrings, which I still have.

I have no idea what caused that friendship to end because there was never any reason, nor was there any closure. There was no fighting, no argument, no discussion, no mis-communication, it was simply there one day and gone the next. I found him on MySpace a few years ago and decided not to even bother pursuing it. What would be the point now? He’d been my best friend, I’d been his, but apparently I was expendable. Why rehash it? At this point, I really don’t need to know.

As he began his slow departure from my life, someone new came along and she was like the missing link. I loved that girl to pieces. Two outspoken Scorpios, as alike as we were different. We clicked in the most bizarre fashion. I really, truly adored her.

In all our years of friendship, friendship close enough where we were roommates for a few months, we had exactly one fight. It was a disagreement with a lot of mis-communication, and the end result was us not speaking for ten years. After much time to think about what had occurred, and why, I was the one that made contact. I felt it was the right thing to do at the time, and I still stand by that decision. I apologized for my part in what had occurred, and things seemed like they might heal and help us move forward, but that didn’t happen.

I cannot and will not make excuses for her. She chose to stop speaking to me when her future husband came into her life shortly after our disagreement, which was part of the reason we did not speak for ten years. She chose to get married without me by her side. “Oh Lisa, you’re my maid of honor for sure! I couldn’t get married without you! I can’t even imagine that day without you there!” Clearly short-lived statements, though they certainly seemed genuine for so many years. She never apologized for her side of things, and after sharing a few e-mails she told me she’d gotten married to him three years after we stopped speaking and they had two children. I was supposed to be their Aunt Lisa, we’d talked about it for years, how I would be there for her through everything in life, how we’d make our friendship a priority through anything and everything, that nothing and no one would ever be able to break apart our friendship because it was eternal. I was hurt, but I never said a word to her about it. Part of it was my fault, yes, but the rest of it was her fault and her choice.

Because she was close with members of my family, I did contact her after my parents passed away to let her know. A few months after everything had happened, I got an e-mail from her saying she was sorry, that she had loved my Mom very much, and would never forget her and all she had done for her, and that she felt like she’d been a horrible friend to me. I responded by saying I understood that she had a life, that she had two young kids to raise, etc., but a few years later I realized it’s really important to stop making excuses for people because it’s basically giving them permission to treat you like shit.

She’s right, she was a horrible friend to me, especially when the fight happened, after it happened, the day I took her to the airport knowing I would never see her again, and when she continued to talk to someone else from our circle for years, all the while not speaking to me. I doubt I will ever get an apology for that, nor do I expect one. She’s on her own, even though we were supposed to be there for each other forever. When I say forever, I actually mean it. I fully understand that very few people share that kind of view on loyalty & friendship, even though she claimed to and still claims to. Hypocritical to the very end. It is what it is and even though I miss her sometimes, we’re extremely different people now and I don’t think it would work even if we were both willing to try. I can accept a lot of things, but being discarded? No. Being replaced as though I never even existed? No and Hell No!

The next person is someone I have been friends with for almost 18 years. I have seen this person through more than I care to discuss. You can’t be friends with anyone that long and not be there through thick and thin. I cannot even begin to describe the goofiness, laughter, adventures, and things shared between us. Sisters is the most accurate description. We’ve got matching opposite side diamond piercings. I will go on record and say that mine bled for YEARS throughout the course of our friendship and I haven’t worn the diamond in many years because I don’t feel that sense of connectedness anymore. I evened the piercing out by getting one to match it a year later, so I don’t think of it as “ours” anymore, nor do I think about it much. However, I’m relieved it’s a piercing and that I managed to talk her out of friendship tattoos, which I would truly be regretting right about now.

As things stand today, we have not spoken in almost three years. The second she met husband #3, she discarded me like a litter box that hadn’t been cleaned out in a year. I went from being this adored best friend to being nothing. It started with ignored phone messages just prior to him moving in, and escalated to ignored text messages and e-mails, but she had time to post things on Facebook on a damn near daily basis. You can’t say you don’t have time for someone and that you’re “busy with work” when the fact of the matter is, you’re choosing not to make time anymore, to completely exclude them from your life, even though you’ve always claimed they’re one of the most important people in your life and you couldn’t live without their honesty and support.

After a certain amount of time had gone by I wrote her a letter (I sent the 5th “draft” after writing all of the anger and hostility out in the others. I don’t think it’s cool to call your best friend names, even if he/she deserves it at the time. I think it’s important to be respectful, to speak frankly, and to let them know exactly where you’re coming from. Being nasty never solves anything.), letting her know that this friendship simply could not continue as it was. I was extremely honest and very fair, of which she can never say otherwise because she knows how I am in my relationships with others, as well as with her. I explained that our friendship deserves a certain level of respect and that by not communicating with me, she’s letting me know exactly what she thinks and feels with that silence, and that it’s extremely bizarre because one day she loves me to death, but the next she can go several years without speaking to me. I explained that while we are as close as sisters, she would never not speak to her own sister for three years, so why is it ok to treat me like that? It’s completely unacceptable, period. I explained that she had to decide whether or not this friendship truly meant something to her or not, and that we had to discuss it together, and come to a decision like two adults.

She e-mailed me weeks after I’d sent the letter, claiming she had just gotten it, and that she’d respond as soon as she could, probably within a few weeks. That response never came. Big surprise there.

There is so much I could say about this person, but right now the only thing I can really say is that when she does crawl back to me, as she always does after she’s gone 2-3 years without speaking to me, she is NOT going to like who she meets this time around. If you do something once, it’s a mistake. When you make a habit out of it, when it becomes your pattern in life, it is within the other person’s purview to exact justice. She has no idea what’s in store for her because I am that angry. Being a two-faced snake charmer will only get you so far with me, and I’m not going to make excuses for anyone. If I’m not worth being treated like a person, then neither are you. When you know what a friend has done for you and you discard him/her, but you always come back to them, then you truly reap what you sow.

All that negativity, both quite unfortunate and very fortunate, brings me to a best friend that other people in this world would KILL to have.

Marion & I have been friends for almost 18 years. She knows the previously aforementioned “best friend” and has always encouraged me to forgive her, that’s just how good SHE is, but I’m not that kind, nor am I that forgiving,

She has been there for me through some of the worst things I have endured in my life. She has patiently listened to me, supported me, cried with me, cheered me on, rallied behind me, agreed to disagree with me, and been just flat out amazing. She is one of the funniest women you will ever know. She will get off the plane, give me a big hug, and then say the most hilarious thing you’ve heard in a long time. She loves me. She loves my brother, even when he’s not very lovable. The same can be said for me, I’m not the easiest person in the world to be friends with at times. She’s met members of family and said “I have no idea how you are related to such people. Maybe we should double-check the DNA.” She has met new people in my life and said “You don’t need her/him.”, and she’s been right on all accounts. She has met old people in my life and said “I like him/her.” She has loved the men in my life for loving me, for making me happy, and then hated them each time they have hurt me and I’ve had to kick them to the curb.

She is the person that always reminds me that the right guy is out there, that he will show up when I least expect it, and she has supported me every single time I have started something new in my life, be it a hobby, a new career direction, or something as simple as this blog, which comes naturally to me.

She is part mother, part sister, part saint, angel with a side of devil, and the role in which she plays in my life is unmatched.

She is the one that always says “If you decide to become a single mother, I will fully support you. I will do whatever I can to help.”, and the woman is an ocean away. I know people that live 40 minutes away and cannot say that, nor would they, and that is telling as to how amazing this lovely creature truly is.

When she & I first became friends I worked for a professional athlete. I did Public & Fan Relations for this jerk, I mean, guy, and that’s how she found me. It was absolutely fate, because under normal circumstances we may never have met. Very quickly our friendship went from her interest in him as a fan to “Wow, Lisa’s really cool. I’d much rather get to know her.” She took a chance and so did I, we have been best friends ever since.

I can always be myself with Marion. I can say the wild, inappropriate thing about anything or anyone, and she will either agree or laugh with me. I can share a thought and not be judged for it. I can write something amazing and she will be honest with me about my work. She’s been reading my work from day one of our friendship, she knows my writing style and my personality, and she knows that as a writer I tend to work harder than people with a guaranteed salary because what I write and how I present it determines whether or not I get paid. I don’t have to justify myself to her, and when I make a decision, she stands by me. In life, we’re both pretty unselfish people.

Don’t get me wrong: We disagree a lot, but we don’t fight with each other. We always agree to “fight fair”. There’s no name-calling or insults, there is simply an honest exchange and sometimes we do have to say “Enough.” if one or both of us is simply too fierce about something. That’s part of what makes our friendship work. I’ve never had to sit around thinking “What a bitch!” or anything negative in regard to her. Not ever. I’ve never had to question my judgement in regard to her role in my life, which is also important because no one wants to have to question whether or not a person should be in their life at all. I feel safe & secure in her presence, and I know that my individuality is treasured and respected, just as hers is in kind.

We’ve all had good & bad friendships in life. For me, it is important to always love the person that I share so much of my head and heart with. You’re not always going to like your best friend, sometimes their views and yours aren’t going to be in sync, but that doesn’t mean that either of you has the right to be vicious or vile to one another.

Whenever I am in a relationship, I do not exclude my friends from my life. I never sit around and think “New boyfriend, time to ditch everyone who’s been there for me for 5, 10, 15, 20+ years.” If anything, a relationship might make me happier, but I would be completely miserable if my friends were taken out of the equation entirely. I cannot function in this world for one person and no one else, that’s not healthy and it’s not normal. As much as I could ever love a man, I still need my friends, and I encourage him to have his as well (whoever “he” happens to be at the time.). I don’t think it’s healthy to never see or speak to your friends once you’re with someone. If anything, this new person needs to be brought into the fold and shown that other side of your life, as well as the people in it, and the same is true for you learning about that side of his life as well.

Marion is my family. If I’m in a relationship with someone, then she’s one of the first people to know about it, often times before my actual relatives. If someone new cannot respect her, they will be out the door so fast it’s not even funny. No one is worth casting your friends aside, especially the friends that have shown time and time again that they are loyal and true.

When it is my time to get married, Marion will be there. She will be celebrating with champagne, She will help me find the right dress. She will care about all of the personal touches because she knows exactly how long I have been waiting for this. She knows it will be a heartbreakingly beautiful, bittersweet time for me and she will not let me go through that alone. She will gently talk me down off my bizarre ledge and remind me how I got to that day, that moment, and that person. That’s what real best friends do.

There is no single individual in this world that “completes you” and will be able to meet every single one of your needs. Life is not a romantic comedy with a good play list. Having your friends reminds you exactly who you are, even as you grow and make changes, as new things happen, it is all the better for having them to share it with. The good ones are the ones that are there for you no matter what. They can forgive your stubbornness, your stupidity, the fact that sometimes you’re so busy you forget something, but they cannot stop being honest with you. When you start walking on eggshells with one another, it needs to be nipped in the bud immediately, because allowing issues to fester is unhealthy, and you want your friendships to be healthy and mutually beneficial.

Life is short, we are all here on borrowed time. Be true, real, devoted, and loyal to the friends that show you they’re deserving of you. If someone continually shows you that they’re undeserving, just be honest with them. Let them know the friendship isn’t working, let them know when it’s over, and why, and accept it, even if it hurts the both of you, but don’t distance yourself or behave as though you were raised by male lions. Treat people the way you want to be treated.

In closing, Marion you are superior, special, beautiful, smart, hilarious, kind, caring, giving, genuine, and you have an incredibly amazing heart. I would be lost without you. Man or no man, you know where you stand in my life. Never above, never below, always to the side. For in this life and hopefully in the next, you are my very best friend and I will walk by your side through the fires of hell. You are one of, but a handful of people in this world that I would gladly take a bullet and/or kill for. God blessed me with a real life angel the day you came into my life and I am a better person for it.

This may not be the gift I really want to give you (a billion dollars and your own private jet), but it is real, heartfelt, honest, and no one is more qualified of being able to celebrate you in such a way.

Happy Birthday Pom Wonderful!! I miss you and I can’t wait for our next set of adventures and our laughter marathons.

Love you doll. XOXOXOXO…..Li